The house is quiet this morning. Maybe a bit TOO quiet. I am working from home and there is usually some sort of background noise to accompany me on my day; the whir of the dishwasher, the violent fluctuations of the washing machine, my iPod. I think today is quiet by design because I am feeling kind of pensive and contemplative. You see, today is the last day of my thirties and tomorrow will be the dawn of a brand new decade. My brain is like a ping-pong ball this morning. It’s jumpy and scattered and disorganized and I am having a hard time settling it down. One minute I am focused on work, upcoming events, and scheduling appointments; the next minute I am reminiscing about all that has happened (and hasn’t happened) this past decade, and then I catch myself looking to the future and imagining where my path will take me.
People have been asking me for weeks how I feel about turning 40. Honestly, it’s not that big a deal. I do remember a time in my life, not too long ago, when it felt like 40 was going to be the first nail in the coffin. But, I FEEL better than I have in years, and I think I LOOK pretty good for someone who has endured tons of sun exposure and yo-yo dieted a lot of her adult life. Cognitively speaking, I think I have grown and evolved and I have a pretty good head on my shoulders, so that’s a plus. I love the concept of milestone birthdays and big celebrations, so having a lot of fanfare around the big four-oh was exciting for me. Where 40 really sticks in my craw is professionally. My 40 year-old chronological self has not yet made peace with my 40 year-old professional self and I am trying to take steps to remedy that.
This morning, I thought back to when I was turning 30 and what the past decade has meant for me. I don’t like to dwell in the past, but a quick peek in the rear-view mirror every once in a while helps me adjust the compass for future travels. At that point in time, I had an 8 month old daughter. I was sleep deprived, grossly overweight, working a lot of hours, and trying to navigate a new world where my husband and I were not the center of our own universe anymore. September 11th had just happened and I was angry and scared and vulnerable. My sister threw me a surprise party at her loft in South Boston, and it was such a fun and memorable night (which we still talk about today, actually). But, honestly, the party was a bright spot in a time where I was feeling a lot of confusion and conflict, both professionally and personally. I was feeling unsure about what was happening in the world and whether or not I would ever be able to truly keep my daughter safe in this increasingly violent and hateful universe. I was feeling conflicted as a working mother and trying to determine if women really CAN have – and excel at – both. I loved being a mother, but a small part of me was envious of the childless friends I had who still went out after work for drinks and laughs while I was stuck on the daily commute/daycare/diaper treadmill.
Thirty was the year that I really began to fall in love with scrapbooking, photography, and journaling. It was my way of sorting things out, of making sense of it all, of capturing the moments and relationships I would have surely forgotten about already. It was my way of saying the things I was either too tired or too embarrassed to say out loud. It was a way of connecting with MYSELF when I was having a difficult time connecting with others. It helped me survive the last few years at a job which I hated and robbed me of my soul. Putting those thoughts down on paper, freezing those moments in time, and engaging in this artistic therapy with myself gave me the courage to walk away from relationships that were not healthy, And, it got me through. It really, really did.
I pondered how life had changed since we had kids. Not better or worse…just different.
I wrote letters to my children telling them how I felt and what my aspirations for them were.
As a parent, and especially in the wake of September 11th, I contemplated my mortality. Regardless of how morbid you think that might be…it happens. You eventually wake up from that invincible stupor of youth one day and realize that you will not last forever.
And, I captured the quirky relationship between and characteristics of my children in countless forms.
I spent a large part of my 30’s listening to and documenting all of the other voices. The noisy, persistent voices of all the things that were vying for my attention each and every day. The 24-hour a day voices of being a mother. The persistent voices of my bosses who wanted longer, better, more — but for less money. The quiet, barely there voice of my husband, who never said anything but was not nearly getting the attention or affection he so deserved. The aching, groaning voice of the house that we were trying to maintain. The voices of my friends, who I was seeing less and less of for multiple reasons. What I didn’t do enough of, until I got into the waning moments of my 30th decade, was listen long and hard to my own voice. If I had, I think that I would have turned onto a different path a long time ago. The only place where I feel like I have listened to my inherent talents and gifts and been true to myself has been as a mother. The rest has been a constant work in progress.
I mentioned before that my chronological path and my professional path have been at odds — and they have. Instead of just utilizing my artistic and writing skills to just SURVIVE a decade, if I could have just listened a bit harder to my own voice and my own soul, I probably would have quit my job and started on my own path long ago. Part of me feels like I cheated myself — and others — by waiting so long. Part of me feels that I had a bunch of selfish crabs trying to drag me back down in the bucket with them for too long — and I let them. And, when I did finally quit my job and risk my perverbial everything — I think I lacked the knowledge to seek out the best mentors who would help me find my own voice and my own way of doing what I loved. I started out by following other people’s handbooks — and it did not work for me. The past two years has been a roller coaster of successes, failures, sacrifices, growth, personal development, and trial and error. I’ve vascillated somewhere in between being proud of myself for taking a leap of faith and being true to my soul to banging my head on the wall wondering what the hell I am doing with my life.
And, lord, have I done a shitload of work on myself!! Work to be a better listener. Work to be a better entrepreneur. Work to figure out what my true path is. Work to become a better friend and mother. Work to distance myself from the dream stealers and vampires that were lurking around every corner of my life. Work to become fitter and healthier, because any licensed therapist would tell you that I was hiding behind that weight, and I suppose I was. I guess one could argue that I was so busy working on *myself* that I wasn’t actually working. And, there would be some truth to that — but I think I really needed to go through those steps to figure out who I really am and what I want my voice to represent. These were all exercises in “what does Jennifer Pipe stand for?” so that the rest of the pieces could finally fall into place.
And they are. Seemingly, they finally appear to be falling into place. I am learning (or relearning, perhaps) that I am meant to help people. And, first and foremost, I am meant to be creative. In a variety of capacities. That is what I have been doing as of late — both helping people and being creative (so, creatively helping people?). And, the fun is starting to reappear in my professional life. I am meeting with like-minded people that also want to do well by doing good. I am focusing very heavily on my gifts and my passions and how I can use those to help other people — and, it is working. I am striving to make a difference in my community.
And, really, if I allow myself to look ahead to my 40’s and what that decade may or may not hold for me, it appears as though it is going to revolve around helping people. Helping them live better longer with my anti-aging business. Working to help those less fortunate and put nutritious food on the table with Vitameal. And also, working with young children, teenagers, and adults to really help them foster a sense of self-discovery, creativity, honesty, self-esteem, kindness, and curiosity through an assortment of art classes. Because, when you get right down to it — art was the catalyst for my self-exploration, courage, and desire to do more. What a gift I can give to so many people — because, let’s face it, the world needs people who are coming alive!
Yeah, 40 isn’t going to be bad. It won’t be bad at all! I am actually looking forward to it.
Thank you for following me on my journey.